Monday, January 31, 2011

Tall and Strong

Tall and Strong

"He is a like a tree planted by streams of water ..." Psalm 1:3

A man who seeks to be the best husband and father he can be first gives attention to the kind of man he is. Only when his life is in order as an individual before God can his life be in order as a husband or father.

Psalm 1 gives several clues to getting our lives in order to be spiritual men and positive leaders in our home.

One, we avoid company with those who do evil (v.1) No, this isn't license to be critical or judgmental of everyone else. But, it is a warning that we pay attention to our relationships. Bad companions do corrupt good morals.

Two, we devote time to the Word of God (v.2). We even delight in it, finding sustenance and meaning for our lives. No better resource can be found to direct our steps in how to function as a husband and father.

Three, we live in the Word and Worship so faithfully over a long period of time that our roots run deep (v.3). This means that we continue to draw from the Word for our ethics and values. Over time, our hearts and minds are shapped by what we read and who we worship.

We can never hope to be flawless. But as we seek the heart of God we can grow into his likeness. And that will be a great blessing to our families.

Warren Baldwin

(Note: photo is from Karli Bonnie Photography. Used by permission).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Marriage, Money, and Madness

It’s the last week of January. At my house, this means the beginning of tax season. Since I'm married to an accountant, our income taxes usually get filed right away. This is out of necessity more than anything else because soon there will be a stack of files needing my husband’s attention before April 15.

The first year we were married our tax return took us both by surprise. When Jeff finished entering the data, he thought it couldn’t be right. So he recalculated the whole thing. It was correct. Since we had each worked full-time the previous year, and our W-4 forms had been filled out years before as “single,” then our combined federal and state return as “married” people, including several appropriate deductions, ended up being an unexpected blessing.

But what surprised us the most was how quickly this blessing turned into something else.

Immediately, my wheels started turning. Knowing how much my husband disdains doing anything on credit, I could now imagine us remodeling our 50-year-old kitchen without having to take out a small loan for it. Or perhaps a trip to Europe? Oh, the possibilities!

Then Jeff said, “Honey, do you know what we could do with this sum of money?”

I was way ahead of him, “Yeah, I do!”

Jeff continued, “We can put this whole amount towards the principal on our mortgage!”

I almost started laughing. Surely he must be joking. But the excitement in his voice indicated otherwise. Then the reality of our situation hit me. Oh my goodness, he’s serious!

I stared at him in silence for a moment, weighing the scenario and determining my best approach. Okay, I was really compiling a mental list of reasons why it would be a rational and logical course of action to improve the value of our home by upgrading our kitchen. I chose this route since I could already see that Europe was out.

Unfortunately, what should have been a wonderful opportunity to be grateful instead became our first major argument. We could not agree on how to spend the money.

While the particulars of this circumstance may be unique to us, I don’t think it’s uncommon for couples to sometimes struggle over how to manage their finances.

In the beginning of our marriage, I wanted Jeff to see things my way, and he wanted me to see things his way. We were both convinced that our own perspective on spending was the right one. This could have become a long-term problem in our marriage, but thankfully, we figured out a way to navigate our differences of opinion without harboring resentment.

Through much prayer and contemplation – in other words, after I failed to get God on my side – God showed me that Jeff’s way of handling money is conservative, yes, but with Jeff in charge, we are not likely to ever find ourselves in any kind of dire financial straits. Jeff is not one to take risky chances or make foolish errors in judgment. His conservative side provides a pillar of stability and security for our family. And for that, I not only respect his point of view, but I have learned to truly appreciate this part of him.

At the same time, Jeff has stretched and grown in the area of generous giving (and shopping). He tells me that he loves the way I want to care for our children by making sure their material needs are met. And with careful planning, we decide together which fun things we can do with our resources.

With our first tax return, we didn’t go with either of our initial plans. We used part of it to pay off a moderate credit card balance, and we used the rest on some smaller house projects. It was a compromise, and we learned a lot about each other in the process.

God made all of us unique individuals. Some people are savers; some are spenders. I suppose if two spenders are married, then they might have some fun for a while, but eventually, their spending habits might catch up with them. On the other hand, two savers might be well off with their abundant savings account, but they might miss out on opportunities to give and be a blessing to others. If a marriage has one of each, then it is very possible they spend part of their marriage fighting over money.

For me, finding value in my husband’s approach to managing finances is one of the ways I follow the words of Ephesians 5:33 and respect my husband. The blessings that have followed this decision have far outweighed anything else. And so far, Europe is still in the same place it was when we got married. So it’s become something to look forward to, someday.

What are some of the ways that you and your spouse honor God in the way you navigate this road of marriage and finances?


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Faith Like Noah

The rain fell in torrents as I drove into the parking lot of my daughter’s school. We ran from the car to the doors, but were soaked by the time we entered the building. My clothes stuck uncomfortably to my body, and I felt every bit the drowned rat.

I dropped my daughter off safely in her classroom. As I was leaving I jokingly told the school's director “I’m off to build an ark!” She replied, “Well you better hurry because it’s already raining.”

That caused me to think. When God told Noah to build an ark, it likely was a beautiful, sunny day. No doubt the people laughed at Noah as he built this ark; 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Yet Noah had faith. The Bible says, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” (Genesis 6:22 NIV) He built an ark in the sunshine.

I wish I could be more like Noah. When God calls on me to do something for him, how often do I wait for the rain first? “Send me a sign if that’s really what you want, God.” If Noah had asked God for a sign, surely it would have begun to rain. And Noah would have had to build his ark in the rain. The tools would be slippery in his hands, his clothes uncomfortably sticking to him. His hair, matted to his head. But no, not Noah. He had the warm sunshine to work in…no doubt whistling while he worked.

And here I am…in the rain. How much easier would my life be if I could respond to God’s call immediately? Without a sign. Without the rain. And yet even as I work in the rain, I know God will be sending the rainbow soon enough.

But the next time God asks me to do something, I hope I can have a faith like Noah. A faith to do everything just as God commands, without a sign. That faith will allow me to work in the sunshine. And not end up all wet.


Monday, January 24, 2011


I like the daily chores of housekeeping. Please, folks do not lob scores of angry rotten tomatoes at me with this confession or call and ask me to be at your home in ten minutes. The truth is, I enjoy serving my family. One of my favorite scriptures,

"Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

came to my attention early in my domestic life and it has stuck. However, over the years, the expectations would change several times. As my responsibilities increased, I would find myself aggitated and condemning when I could not scratch off each item on my "to do" list in a certain amount of time. Each change and transition has presented it's own challenges.

This week, the challenges seemed huge as the appliances revolted rendering our family can-opener-less, hot water heater-less AND washer-less. I found myself praying...praying for the provision to be able to replace our modern conveniences, praying for forgiveness for counting so dearly on the things of the world and praying for a miracle that would help me complete my chores in a timely fashion.

My husband graciously researched hot water heaters and he was able to get us one that would fill the void. He installed it himself into the wee hours of our normal Friday Night Family night. Thankful, I was able to take a hot shower less than three hours after it was installed. Having missioned in places where no hot water exists, it is a daily thanksgiving I offer up to the Lord each and every time I step into the shower, "Thank you Lord, for hot water." Prayers answered.

When the washing machine began hissing, whirring and stomping clear across the laundry room the next day, it was not a happy moment. Faced with the prospect of yet another heavy bill, my husband and I looked at each other tenuously. We prayed...we prayed for a soution other than a new washing machine. January for a contractor is never pretty. Though we are grateful for work, January always tends to be slower with smaller jobs and slower payment on finished jobs post Christmas reverie. I had to figure out how to get the laundry done outside our sunny, yellow laundry room. The Lord provided yet another opportunity to be thankful and praise His name for the long time we had enjoyed this washing machine and the convenience it brings to our lives.

After we prayed, we visited an appliance dealer to find our replacement washer. We agreed that if the current washer could not be fixed, we would find a way to finance the new one. In obedience, my husband checked the internet for potential problems with this washing machine. Praise God for Rob's discernment, he located a small part that breaks off the machines and ordered a new one readily. The new one was installed and the washer is working great! Praise!

I would have been anxious to buy new, releasing the old one, but also potentially releasing the Lord's will for this situation. Even in our housekeeping, God is alive and working. I was humbled not only by God's quick response but also by my own short sightedness in trusting that God is capable of far more than I can imagine. We are assured in Psalm 37:4 "Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."

"And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever." Phillipians 4:19
Though this verse speaks to God's promise to fulfill the needs of the Phillipians, the promise here is that God will supply “all” the needs of the Philippians, not just some of them. Whether our need is temporal or spiritual, God will meet it.
When the glory is given to Him; when we trust His promises and seek Him first, the Lord will not allow us to remain in want. No detail is too small, even the daily rigor of housekeeping is not too small for our Lord.

May God provide perfect provision for you in all things.
Be encouraged and blessed.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Antiques Anyone?

My husband and I recently had the chance to stay in a cabin in the mountains.  While we were there, we decided to venture into town.  What we discovered were a plethora of antique shops!

We spent the next few hours carefully looking for treasures amongst the stuff.  It was so much fun!  We had a budget and an idea of what we were looking for.

My eyes were focused on finding the perfect tea cup (something I already collect). At the end of our shopping excursion, I ended up with three beauties and all within our budget! Wooohooo! I did have to turn away one amazing tea cup because of the high price. But after finding three others I loved, there were no regrets.

My husband and I don't go antiquing very often, so this was a fun change from the norm. You would be surprised at the exciting "finds" hidden within some of these shops.

My date idea is this: Spend some time either visiting a local antique shop, or going to yard sales together. Be sure to set your budget ahead of time (I even resort to only carrying cash).


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

seeking Him in faith

Too many times we “talk our faith” but we don’t really “walk our faith”. It is easy to be a Christian on Sundays when you are surrounded by other Christians. It’s easy when you are in God’s house.

The true test of our faith begins when we are out in the world. Our faith isn’t just about how well we do church or how often we do church. It’s about what we DO with the way we ‘do church’.

A real faith requires action. Rather than our life impacting our faith, it’s about our faith impacting every part of our life!

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19)

In this verse, James gives us some very simple instructions. Simple yet powerful. Easy to understand but so vitally important to our walk.

1. Listen well  (be a good listener)
2. Be slow to speak. (listen first)
3. Do not fight (slow to anger)

You notice that James puts the importance of hearing first. It is so important that we learn to listen well. Too many times we listen and don’t hear. Somebody talks to us and when they finish, we realize that we haven’t heard a word that they said to us! My kids sometimes would be talking and I would think I was listening and then they would be saying, “well..???” and I would realize that they asked me a question and guess what… I wasn’t really listening.

We are guilty of this in reading God’s word. He is speaking to us when we read, but we have to “listen” intently with our hearts to what He is saying through the written word. If we want to hear what God is saying, we have to be listening.

We also need to be slow to speak. I think this is so we will be better hearers. We will heed His word better, when we listen better and speak less. Amen??

We also need to be slow to anger. I think that speaks for itself. Anger is an emotion that is based on selfishness. Anger is really about “us” and our desires or lack of desire. Anger is about the flesh. If we are slow to speak, then sometimes that will take care of the anger problem. It gives us time to regroup and get our thoughts lined up with God.

In verse 21 he tells us that we need to lay all moral impurities aside. Moral impurity stems from living in the flesh and not the Spirit. When we focus on the flesh, it’s because we have NOT surrendered to God and His plan for us. We aren’t letting God meet our needs so we turn to our fleshly desires which can lead to impure actions and our own destruction.

The end of that verse talks about receiving the implanted Word. We can certainly read the Word and not actually receive it into our hearts. Just like the example in verse 23 of looking into a mirror and then walking away - forgetting what we look like. It’s because we didn’t really ‘receive’ what we were seeing. We just took a passing glance at the reflection. We just skimmed the surface.

That’s what we are guilty of in God’s word. We just take a passing glance at it and don’t devour it and soak it in and receive it FULLY! We have to live what we believe. Our faith is about a relationship - not just a religion. We have to be doers. We have to actually do something about our faith. We don’t want to be guilty of the passing glance, but move on to the deep stare. We can certainly have a deep knowledge of the Word, but if we don’t apply it and live it, we are accomplishing nothing in our lives.

We are most affected by the Word of God when we dig deep into His Word and then translate what we learned into our lives. Our faith has to be walked and not just talked. We have to hold captive what we are gleaning from His Word. Actually ‘do’ the Word. Live it abundantly - stay in front of the mirror of His Word so we don’t forget what we are seeing.

We must let it penetrate our hearts and saturate our souls. It will then spur us into the action of living our faith out! It will spur us into living what we believe!

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22)

The power of our faith is validated by our works. When we truly comprehend the meaning of our faith - we are just eager to do good works! We are ready to put our faith into action! Let’s examine our lives and see if our faith is being perfected or if we are just going through the motions.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Time and Kids

Time and Kids
Sometimes I feel time speeding by like the train in this picture (Thanks to Karli Bonnie Photography).

Our two college (actually, grad school) kids were home for a couple of weeks over Christmas. Now they are back in school. We did some of the things we planned to do, but not all. Time.

We sometimes think of time as our enemy - it is constantly working against us or trying to escape us. Actually, time is our friend. It is here for us to enjoy with the people we love and the things we like to do (and, yes, even some of the things we have to do :).

One daughter, a senior, remains at home. How can we use our remaining time with her as a friend rather than an enemy?

- Celebrate the minutes and hours we do have together. Make the time memorable.

- Enjoy the things she enjoys with her. Right now that is basketball, and so far we have seen every game #11 has played.

- Still take advantage of the teachable moments. We can't just get misty during the final months. There is still some bending of the twig left, and as responsible parents, we can't let all those opportunities fly by.

- Create momories that will last. Two things I do here. One, take lots of pictures. Two, keep a diary of the kids' last year at home. I give them the diary when they go off to college. That is a big hit (and don't just write the fun or pleasant things; write the real things as they happen).

Just a few suggestions, but ideas that will hopeful help us to wisely redeem the time with our older kids.


(Note: I don't know how this post will look when it actually posts. I spent way too much time trying to get the paragraphs right, but I simply cannot get rid of the big gaps. This is when time becomes the enemy :).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Taking Time Out for Tea

This morning I met with a new friend at a local coffee shop. On Thursday mornings, she sits at my table for Bible study. As a table leader, I want to be more intentional this year about spending additional one-on-one time with each of the women in our small group, getting to know each of them a little better. So this morning I got do to just that.

We spent almost two hours talking about family and church and school and home. It was great fun to discover some things we shared in common. When our conversation turned to the topic of marriage, we shared from our hearts some of the ways we encourage our husbands, who work hard every day to support their families. We also talked about the Anchor in our marriage, Jesus. For Christ is the foundation of every healthy relationship.

I have been invited to write for the Titus 2 In Action blog on the topic of marriage. I am very excited about this, for I love to share with others what I have learned through God’s Word and through my everyday experiences. My husband Jeff and I are raising three kids in the greater Los Angeles area. Simone is a sophomore in high school and just got her driver’s permit last week, so we are about to embark on a whole new adventure with her. Our youngest children, Brynn and Parker, are both in elementary school, and we enjoy the various extra-curricular activities like Girl Scouts, ballet class, piano lessons, and baseball practice.

Amidst this sometimes-busy pace of life, I like to invite friends out for coffee. While I don’t drink coffee per se – I usually order apricot tea – I do like the ambiance of a quaint cafĂ© where I can meet with a friend to chat. As I write for this blog, I hope to convey the same kind of atmosphere – as if we were together sharing a pot of tea, talking about the importance of keeping God first in our marriage. I look forward to getting to know some new friends here too, in this amazing world known as the blog-o-sphere.

What specific topics on marriage would you like to see discussed here?


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Doing It

Nike, the famous athletic apparel company, coined the phrase “Just do it.” But life isn't that easy. Paul, the apostle, was more on target when he said, “I do not do the good thing I want to do, but I do the wrong thing that I do not want to do.”(Romans 7:19) We fail to do what we know we should.

Just as Nike would have you believe you can’t “Just do it” without their shoes, the Bible truthfully states that we can’t do it without Jesus. He did what we couldn’t, live a life on earth without sinning. But when he left earth, he gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us do what we should.

God’s Holy Spirit prompts us to make right decisions, to stop doing what we know is wrong and to live a life worthy of being called children of God. We can fight off the sinful nature with God’s help and do what he calls us to do.

Once you start doing that, you’ll find another change in your life. You still won’t be able to “Just do it” as easily as the Nike ads claim. But you will be able to do it justly. And doing it justly is better than just doing it every time.


Monday, January 10, 2011

The Broken Man

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."
James 4:10

My favorite Christmas cookie is a really well made gingerbread man; little chocolate buttons and some white frosting, YUM! I have not mastered the gingerbread man. My sister in law taught me how to make them many years ago. She and my nieces are excellent bakers. I can be...baking challenged!

However, my lack of innate skill does not diminish my desire to try every year to better the art of fine gingerbread man making. In spite of their overall diversity, some come out dark and crunchy, some soft and fluffy, all of them taste really great. Some, before I have even gotten them to the cooling rack break off, leaving limbs and buttons scattered. I take the broken ones and place them in a smaller bin for our family to munch on until we break out the "perfect" ones at Christmas.

This prompted our four year old to say to me, "Why do you put the broken ones in here? They are the best ones, Mommy. I love them." In that moment, I thought about the way that our God, omnicient and omnipresent says the same to all of us.

"I love you. Yes, you broken ones, I love you!"

A younger version of myself was convinced that brokenness was a response to a life event; that death, or loss or change prompted brokenness and then we simply grow out of it. Last year, studying Nancy Leigh DeMoss' Brokenness, I discovered there is so much more to brokenness.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and contrite heart -
These, O God, You will not despise." Psalm 51:17

That heart...broken and contrite, humbled and convicted is the heart the Lord wants for us all the time. My preconceived notion of brokenness being woeful and mourning for such a time as this, was...well...wrong! DeMoss speaks to true brokenness being "a constant way of life, a moment-by-moment lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of our hearts and lives, not as everyone else thinks it is, but how He knows it is." (p.44)

When we look at those broken gingerbread men, they are not placed on the plate with the others because they do not look right (in our human eyes). How often we approach real life situations in this way, focusing our energy on ourselves, each other and not relying solely on the providence of our matchless Maker.

In our broken state, we are concerned with God's view and not with our own or with that of those around us. Our spirit is broken in conviction for Him, yielding perfect peace unlike the constant sorrow we may envision when we use the term "broken". Sorrow and mourning will come in order for revival to follow, but there are blessings in brokenness and ultimately new life.

The visual of those sweet gingerbread men will remind me daily of my need for brokenness as an ongoing lifestyle. It will remind me that being broken is a choice to be humbled under the hand of our Precious Father and live each day in desperate need of him. What a truly miraculous way to begin a new year, heart poised for the rejuvenation that can only come through the cleansing and healing of being broken.

Wishing you a beautiful beginning to this New Year.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Together in 2011

The first week of 2011 has come and gone. Hopefully you are well on your way to being adjusted to the new schedule with school and work.

Many of you have taken the time to write down your goals for the new year. kudos! What about goals for your marriage? A good marriage isn't just happened upon, it is something that is worked at and nurtured. If you want a great date idea for January, take the time to sit down together and write out some goals for the two of you in 2011.
My husband and I are going out of town (on a Friday - Monday) in January to set our goals for the new year. We will spend a great deal of time talking together about our couples goals. Here are some I'm thinking of:

1) Go out on two dates per month together.

2) Pray together at least once per week.

3) Take communion together once per week.

4) Read our Bible study book together once per week.

5) Get away together (without the kids) twice this year.

These are just examples of goals you can set for your marriage. Be creative and let God lead you as you plan for a prosperous 2011.

Ecclesiastes 5:7a TLB "Dreaming instead of doing is foolishness."


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

keeping God close

Jeremiah was a priest before he was a prophet. He was very devoted and committed to God and to Holiness. In Jeremiah 13:1, the Lord tells Jeremiah to go and get a linen sash, put it around his waist but not to get it in water. Jeremiah did just what the Lord commanded of him. In verse 4, the Lord once again tells Jeremiah to do something. He told him to take that same sash and go to the Euphrates and hide it in a hole in a rock. So once again, Jeremiah didn’t question God, he just went and did what the Lord commanded. After many days, the Lord told Jeremiah to go back to the Euphrates and get the sash from where he had hidden it. Jeremiah asks no questions - he just gets up and goes back and retrieves the sash. And it was ruined. Profitable for nothing.

As Christians, this set of scripture has several meaningful areas of application in our lives. The first thing that I notice is the way Jeremiah obeyed immediately each time the Lord spoke. He didn’t ask questions. He didn’t make excuses as to why he couldn’t go or didn’t need to go. He just listened and did exactly what God instructed. God said it and he did it. That is the kind of response that God deserves from us, even when the commands we get may not be clearly understood or the reasons known, we just have to be obedient. If God tells us to do something, then we need to do it. Simply obey.

The sash can represent so many aspects of our life in Christ. It is our relationship with Christ, it is God, it is the Word. It is representative of all these things as a whole. We hold them all close to us. We “wear” them tightly around us. God desires for us to be girded with His Word. He desires for us to wrap ourselves up snuggly with him. When we do this, we are being obedient and allowing God and His Word to do a work in our lives. Serve a purpose. Be useful. Be fruitful.

Too many times we are taking that sash and hiding it - just like God had Jeremiah do. We hide our Christianity and take it out perhaps when we need it? Or when it’s convenient. We just kinda neglect it - move on to other things in our lives. Things that we deem important. We are in a sense worshiping other gods while we let the One True God remain hidden away. Then when it is finally time to retrieve it - guess what? It is ruined. It is profitable for nothing. It serves no purpose in its ruined state.

Our relationship with the Lord won’t do us a bit of good if we don’t keep it around us at all times. It is not something that we use just when we need it and then hide it for a season and get it back out again. We need Christ every second of every day. We can’t function completely as a Christian without Him. For Him to be used in our lives and for Him to be purposed in our lives, He has to BE in our lives.

This really opened my eyes to my relationship with God. I have to keep him close at all times. I don’t ever want to hide him away. I don’t want to ever have to go “dig Him up” when I get in a mess. I want Him around me so I don’t GET in a mess.

Lord, help me to keep my focus entirely on You and Your Word. Help me to listen and to be quick to obey. Let me be useful in Your Kingdom work. Hold me close, Lord, and let me feel Your Presence. 


Sunday, January 2, 2011



This is what a basketball goal has always looked like to me. As an adult. As a teenager.

I remember watching friends compete to see who could reach the highest on the net, or even touch the rim. I was glad to be able to get my feet a few inches off the ground.

A few lucky guys could actually leap with a ball and dunk it. That goal always seemed so out of reach.

It would have been nice, when I was younger, to be able to jump and reach the rim. But really, it didn't matter then and it doesn't matter now. To be able to touch the goal was never a goal for me.

I think a goal must reach at least three criteria to be worthy of our efforts.

One, it must stretch us to be better people. A goal to clean up our speech, relate better to people, and read the Bible through in a year are such goals.

Two, it must require some serious effort. The work to achieve the goal is often as important and transforming as the goal itself.

Three, it must meet with God's approval. The things God approves are eternal in nature, so they really matter!

There is nothing wrong with being able to leap and touch a basketball rim. But, at 5' 10", I knew it wasn't a likely goal for me. It certainly isn't now.

But learning God's word, relating better to my wife and kids, and mentoring a fatherless ten-year old, now those goals stretch me, take serious effort, and pay eternal benefits. Those are three goals I'm working on this year.

How about you? What goals have you set that meet these three important criteria?

Warren Baldwin

Note: Thanks to Karli Photography for these great pictures.